Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Aliens Love (Sewing) Underpants

Sewing Underpants to Save the Universe!


Sewing Underpants 

A few days ago, I started a very scientific experiment to compare 5 different panties patterns. For everyone of them, I will be using the same fabric, same elastics and one generic method to sew them all! At this stage, I will be sewing the 5 panties without modifying the patterns, in a size medium. I even found a way to post pictures of myself in my undies while staying prim and proper!?!


Preparing to Sew

Cutting Nylon/Spandex
Like any long outer-space voyage, you need a minimum amount of preparation to sew underpants. First, I decided to prewash my fabric (even if nylon shouldn't shrink) and my black elastic because I read that those might bleed dye. You will want to use the same methods to wash them as you will after with your finish underpants, even a little rougher! I machine washed and dried mine.

Before revving your sewing machine, you need to cut your fabric. It is a good idea to cut the elastic when the panties are assembled, so you could better gauge how long it needs to be. You want snug but comfortable elastic at the exact location the panties leg/waist is going to be.

I have cut all 3 low rise panties (and the side pieces for the Betty panties) in about 24 inch of my 60 inches wide nylon/spandex fabric - I fold it 3 times to save fabric. I recycle an unworn nursing top for the 5 crotch liners ; this took a itsy bitsy amount of fabrics. I needed 21 inches of fabric to cut the rest of the 2 high waist panties. It took less than 3h at my snailstress pace... OK raw material is all ready, now what?


Underpants Sewing Methods Comparison

I always take a tour of the web-sphere beforehand to gather several methods to realize my project. Here is a summary of my research :
  • Very Purple Person Tutorial : (I WILL USE THIS ONE) Novita sew the panties then apply elastic to the legs and waist. Her instructions are very good if your pattern has a crotch in shell fabric too - all the seams end up enclosed under the gusset. Plus her visual are perfect, her fabric has a visible wrong side. She usually set her zigzag stitch on 2.5 in width and 1.5-2 in length. She baste the FOE before sewing it with 3-steps zig zag. Her tutorial include visual instruction for 3 types of elastic finishes : fold over, picot or normal flat ones.
  • So, Zo Tutorial  : Zoe usefully note that to refashion an old T-shirt without lycra/spandex/elastane, you need to increase the side seams (SS) by 0.5 to 1 cm. She sew the crotch, then the leg elastics, then only 1 SS, then the waist elastic and finally the last SS. She recommend very gently pulling on the leg elastics while sewing for a snug fit. SA = 3/8 in.
  • MakeBra's Hipster Sewing Tutorial:  Annele step by step instructions are similar to So Zo as she sew the crotch, then apply legs elastic, then SS and finally the waist elastic. She recommend NOT stretching the elastics with her pattern. I added SA = 3/8 in
  • Indigorchid basic instructions : Brigitte uses the same sandwich and roll method as Novita (Very purple person). She use the recycles T-shirt hem as casing with flat elastic in it at the waist. Then sew the SS with flat felled seams. And finally, uses picot elastic on the legs and stretch it slightly as she sews. extra instructions : Brigitte shows 3 different elastic application : Fold-over, regular flat and stretch lace. She uses the same methods as Novita for the FOE and regular flat elastic. For the lace, she recommend 1 or 2 row of zigzag with threads the same color as the lace. SA = 1/4 inch. 
  • Ohhh Lulu's Betty Sew A Long Posts : Sarah sew the panties and applies the elastic last, like Novita. She finish the gusset front edge first, then sew the crotch seam, then the 4 SS (due to front and back panels), then you can topstitch if your seams feel bulky, then baste the gusset and finally apply elastic pulling gently. She recommend cutting the elastic about 2in smaller depending of its elasticity.   SA = 3/8 in
  • Vera Venus's Grannie-pannie instructions : Her instructions are in the pattern PDF page 2. Since her pattern is different (2 pieces only), she just sew the CB seams (SA=3/8in), then the crotch seam (SA=1/4in), then finish the front of the gusset, then sew the gusset at the back, then stay stitch the gusset in place and finally attach the elastic to waist and legs using your favorite method.


My Sewing Method

I chose to use Novita's (Very Purple Person) tutorial to sew my panties, but to account for the particularities (like SA and elastic snugness) of all the patterns I will sew. Please refer to Very Purple Person Tutorial for stunning visuals!

How I will sew all panties :
  1. Finish all gussets front edge (except for Indigorchid)
  2. Sew and Finish all crotch seam(s) (SA=3/8in except 1/4in for Indigorchid and Grannie-Pannie)
    - Lay Front right side up
    - Lay Back wrong side up (Front and Back are right on right like a normal seam)
    - Lay gusset wrong side up (so the seam will be enclosed when flipped over)
    OR (just said differently)
    - Lay Front and Back right sides together
    - Lay gusset on top of Back, wrong side up.
  3. Sew and Finish all vertical seam(s) (SA=3/8in except 1/4in for Indigorchid only)
  4. Try on and cut elastics to desired length... (Hipster's elastic should not be sewn stretched)
  5. Baste and topstitch the legs opening with ruffles elastic
  6. Baste the FOE to the waist
  7. Change thread to black
  8. Topstitch FOE at waist.
Left : Finished seam + Right : RTW seam finishing and FOE

How I will sew my FOE to the waist :
  1. Right side facing up, put fabric on top of FOE, Align fabric raw edge to FOE middle
  2. Pins at strategic interval to distribute the elastic.
  3. Baste while making sure the fabric is attached all around.
  4. Close the FOE ; should not see stitches on right side.
  5. Topstich the elastic.
How I will sew the Ruffles or Picot Elastic to the legs :
  1. Put elastic on top of the fabric right side, ruffles/picot facing away from raw edge. Alight elastic straight edge to raw edge of fabric.
  2. Pins at strategic interval to distribute the elastic.
  3. Baste closest to the picot/ruffles edge.
  4. Turn the elastic under ; ruffles/picot should peek outside.
  5. Topstich the elastic.
Left to right : Ruffles elastic at legs + FOE with picot edge for waist


My Sewing Machine Settings

I always do a a test run with my fabric scraps to test the all the methods I am going to use and note the result down. I used a Schmetz stretch needle, size 75/11. I own a Singer Quantum Stylist 9960. Here are the stitches on my machine for references :

My Raw Material :
  • Fabric : Light pink nylon/spandex
  • Lining : Dark pink 100% viscose recycled top
  • Elastic : Black FOE-picot for the waist and Ruffles for the legs. 
  • Threads : Guttermann in pink and black. I sew everything in pink up until the last step to close the FOE elastic at the waist in black.
My Stitching Settings :
  • Seam : #7+ change length to 2.0 (instead of 2.6). Try to vary the length or the tension until your thread do not break when you stretch a seam with your hand.
  • Finishing : #16 + change length to 2.2 (instead of default 2.6) + Fabric rolls on wrong side.
  • Lining Finishing : Same as finishing, but for single layer use silk paper under the fabric.Tear away after sewing. I recycle the paper from gift bags and cut it in about 1in strips to use to stabilize lightweight fabric... Maybe starch would do the same?
  • Elastic Basting : #7
  • Elastic Topstitching : #12 + augmenting tension to 12 (instead of default 6). Try it on your machine because a too loose stitch will be very uncomfortable on your skin. 

Stitches #7, #16 and #12


Resulting Underpants

I finished to assemble all panties, but I decided to keep sewing the elastic after assessing the fit, since I still want to end up with 5 wearable pairs. Hence, I will compare them without the elastic first, adjust them and sew the elastics on to finalize my pant-tastic scientific experiment! Of course, in no way I am judging the quality of the pattern, just merely the size and shape of the half sewn pattern in my chosen fabric. It might help some readers to choose a pattern in particular if its closer to your favorite underpants! Here is the visual comparison :

Low Rise Panties Comparison

  • Make Bra Hipster, size M
  • So Zo panties, size UK12
  • Indigorchid T-Shirt panties, size M

Left to right : Hipster + So Zo + Indigorchid

Bottom to top : Hipster + Indigorchid + So Zo (folded)

High Waist Panties Comparison

  • Ohhh Lulu Betty High Waist Panties, size Hips 40-41 inches
  • Vera Venus Grannie-Pannie, size UK10-12
Below : Ohhh Lulu Betty + Top : Vera Venus Grannie-Pannie

Left : Ohhh Lulu Betty + Right : Vera Venus Grannie-Pannie

Photo Comparison on a Human

Here are my measurements, in case you want a better idea how they fits :
  • High Bust : 38 in
  • Bust : 40 in
  • Waist : 33 in
  • Hip : 40 in
  • 5ft 2in and 160 lbs

1: So Zo, 2: Indigorchid, 3: Hipster, 4: Vera Venus, 5: Betty

1: So Zo, 2: Indigorchid, 3: Hipster, 4: Vera Venus, 5: Betty

1: So Zo, 2: Indigorchid, 3: Hipster, 4: Vera Venus, 5: Betty


Did you miss anything on my Pant-tastic Mission?


    1. This is a comprehensive pant-experiment! Nice work! And a great way to show them on a human.
      I shall bookmark this for future reference :-)

      1. Thank you so much Winnie! I was thinking about the super hero pose too, but lack the Photoshop skills! I am a big fan of your sewing/blog/humor! :D

    2. This is so helpful! I am trying out some of the free patterns, too. I did the So Zo pair yesterday, and the fit came pretty close to the same as the ones you made. I had been wondering if this was the way they were supposed to fit or if I had picked the wrong size. Guess if I want to use them I will add a little bit to the rear! They were pretty comfy everywhere else. I like the rear fit on the hipsters- that is what I am looking for in a good pair of undies.

    3. Thank you Brooke, I always wonder if my babble is of any use!! :D There is still many more underwera patterns to explore... I love that my wardrobe is getting more an more handmade!